Will MOOCs Make MBA Programs Dinosaurs?


Will Online Courses Turn MBA Programs Into Dinosaurs?

The line it is drawn 

The curse it is cast 

The slow one now 

Will later be fast 

As the present now 

Will later be past 

The order is 

Rapidly fadin’ 

And the first one now 

Will later be last 

For the times they are a-changin.’

– Bob Dylan

You could almost hear Bob Dylan’s prophesy echo at last week’s education forum hosted by Thinkers 50. For two decades, the internet has upended industries like encyclopedias, music, and print news. In the process, customers have grown accustomed to receiving service and content that’s free, up-to-the- minute, and customized to their personal wishes. Now, academics, a seemingly insulated business model, is facing a major upheaval of its own. And it could get pretty rocky.

“Half of U.S. business schools will be out of business in five to seven years because of online disruption.”

That was the prediction made by Roger Martin, former dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. He was referencing MOOCs (Massive open online courses), which enable students to take low cost courses at home instead of enrolling in more pricey on-site programs. In this ala carte model, students choose what they want to learn, sometimes foregoing credentials for convenience and lower costs. As a result, many schools, weighed down by brick-and-mortar overhead, must battle competitors that can quickly scale up or down without the same constraints.

Clayton Christensen, a Harvard professor and author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, notes, “The advent of online learning, and the propensity of more and more companies to bring teaching of management in-house, versus outsourcing it, makes disruption a very big deal for business schools.” With business schools like Wharton and Harvard moving into the space, two new threats emerge. First, schools with lesser-known brands could face an uphill battle for students looking to affiliate themselves with more accessible Ivy League programs. By the same token, these established programs risk cannibalizing themselves by losing campus-based students – and the higher revenue they produce – to lower cost online programs.

The future of higher education may already be manifesting itself at two institutions. At Georgia Tech University, students can earn a master’s degree in computer science online for less than $7000. Although this is a “fraction” of what the program costs on campus, Georgia Tech plans to make up the shortfall with higher enrollment. Similarly, Bloomberg reports that the “pressure on costs and the need to compete globally has led business schools in Europe to join forces, including the merger of Reims Management School and Rouen Business School in France this year.”

So are slashing costs and merging the only solutions? Maybe not. The University of Toronto’s Martin believes school must get away from teaching commoditized skills like finance and teach intangibles like problem-solving. Conversely, Harvard’s Christensen hopes business schools loosen up so students can pick-and-choose more instead of following a set curriculum.

Either way, the times are a changin.’ Question is, which schools will stay in denial and get washed away?

Editor’s Note: This week, Editor-in-Chief John A. Byrne sat down with Rotman’s Roger Martin to discuss his vision for business school education. To read more, click here: Roger Martin

Source: The San Francisco Gate

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